David P. AuCoin Ph.D.: Biography/Education

Associate Professor; Chair, Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology | Department of Microbiology and Immunology | Diagnostics Discovery Laboratory

Education

  • Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology (2002), University of Nevada, Reno

Biography

David AuCoin, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. Dr. AuCoin received a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst followed by a Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno. In addition, Dr. AuCoin completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. Dr. AuCoin has spent nearly 15 years studying a number of pathogenic microbes. Graduate and postdoctoral studies focused on viral replication and egress of Kaposi's sarcoma associated herpesvirus and human cytomegalovirus. Recently, research in the AuCoin laboratory has focused on developing antibody-based diagnostics and therapeutics.

Two NIH/NIAID funded projects are currently active within the AuCoin laboratory. Both of these projects rely on the identification of secreted or circulating microbial antigens that can be targeted for immunodiagnosis of disease. The AuCoin laboratory has utilized a novel platform technology termed "In vivo Microbial Antigen Discovery" or InMAD to identify such antigens. InMAD is currently identifying candidate diagnostic antigens secreted during infection with Burkholderia pseudomallei (melioidosis), Aspergillus fumigatus (invasive aspergillosis) and Francisella tularensis (tularemia). The capsular polysaccharide (CPS) produced by B. pseudomallei was identified by InMAD as an encouraging diagnostic target. A monoclonal antibody has been produced that is reactive with CPS in patient samples. InBios International has incorporated the CPS specific mAb into a lateral flow immunoassay (LFI), which is currently undergoing pre-clinical testing in endemic areas of Thailand and Australia.

Antibody engineering is another focus of the AuCoin laboratory. Phage display is currently being used to improve affinity of antibodies specific to the capsules of Bacillus anthracis and B. pseudomallei. This has resulted in antibodies that achieve an improved sensitivity in diagnostic assays and possibly increased efficacy when used therapeutically in animal models of disease. In addition, the laboratory is interested in how antibody heavy chain constant domains contribute to antibody affinity. Antibodies with identical variable regions but different constant domains vary substantially in their affinity. The laboratory has engineered recombinant antibodies with identical variable regions and different constant domains to support this hypothesis. The goal is to incorporate a constant domain within a recombinant antibody that will enhance affinity resulting in improved diagnostic or therapeutic efficacy.

Research

The primary focus of the AuCoin laboratory is to develop diagnostics and therapeutics for infectious diseases. Current funding includes three research grants through the National Institutes of Health. Two additional grants were recently secured through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Naval Research Laboratory (DoD). All these projects rely on the identification of secreted or circulating microbial antigens that can be targeted for diagnosis of disease. The AuCoin laboratory has developed a novel platform technology termed "In vivo Microbial Antigen Discovery" or InMAD to identify such secreted antigens. InMAD is currently being utilized to identify candidate diagnostic antigens secreted during infection with Burkholderia pseudomallei (melioidosis), Aspergillus fumigatus (invasive aspergillosis) and Francisella tularensis (tularemia).

One of the research grants is a partnership with InBios International (Seattle, WA). Phase I STTR funding has resulted in the production of the Active Melioidosis Detect™ (AMD) Diagnostic test that is currently undergoing preclinical testing in endemic areas of Thailand and Australia. The CDC, DHS and DoD are currently evaluating this test for use as a rapid point of care diagnostic.

Dr. AuCoin received a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (1993) followed by a M.S. (1999) and Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno (2002). Dr. AuCoin completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University (2005). He lectures on medical microbiology to School of Medicine medical students and recently assisted in the creation of a new undergraduate major, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology (MMI), through the College of Science at the University of Nevada, Reno.


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